Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week.
– Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday October 9, The Broken America
Here we see the luxury liner SS America. At the time she was one of the fastest and most elegant ships at sea. Her life would take a tragic and sad end.
Built in the end of the preWWII luxury liner era that saw such ships as the Hamburg, Normandie, and Queen Mary take to the seas, the SS America was not the biggest ship in the sea, but at 35,000-tons, was still the size of a battleship. With a capacity of 1200 passengers, she was intended to take up the North Atlantic trade from New York to England/France at speeds of over 22-knots. Laid down in August 22, 1938 by the Maritime Administration, she was paid for in part by the government but ran by the United States Lines company from New York.
When she was completed and sailed on her maiden voyage on August 22, 1940, World War Two had been going on for a year in Europe. To keep her safe from German U-boats or surface raiders, (the US was neutral at the time), she sailed with every light on, giant American flags painted on her sides (where a U-boat captain would target through his attack periscope) and behaved as noisy as possible. Even with this said, USN inspectors poured over her plans and made notes, even helping to degauss the ship in early 1941 against magnetic mines. The FBI also quietly removed two German spies from her crew.
Then, just six months before Pearl Harbor, the Maritime Administration called in their marker and pressed the ship into service with the navy. Renamed the troop ship USS West Point, she was given pennant number AP-23. Armed with four single 5″/38 cal dual purpose gun mounts , four single 3″/50 cal dual purpose gun mounts, four twin 40mm AA gun mounts, and eight .50 cal machine guns, she was made capable of carrying as many as 7600 Army troops as well as some 400-tons of their cargo. Although on some missions she carried as many as 8500.
Capable of moving an entire brigade at once, with a few extra battalions attached, she was one of the most capable ships in the Naval Transportation Service. During the war she moved over 450,000 US, Canadian, Australian, British and other allied troops to North Africa, Italy, the Pacific and back and forth across the Atlantic. In a single year, between June 27, 1944, and June 24, 1945, the West Pont crossed the Atlantic 27 times and carried more than 140,000 passengers. Used on occasion as a hospital transport, she carried another 16,000 wounded soldiers back home to urgent medical care. Another class of passenger, 14,000 Axis prisoners of war, were also carried off into life in POW camps. Thus she served as a prison ship, transport, and hospital craft.
On March 12, 1946, the MARAD, having gotten their moneys worth from the ship, disarmed her and gave her back to the United States line. In all, West Point had accomplished 145 missions, made 15 Pacific crossings and 41 on the Atlantic, steamed 456,144 nautical miles and carried 505,020 passengers of all kinds while in US service.
The ship resumed a weird and varied life over the next 48 years.
The Name Game!
Ok guys and girls, lets play the name game with this ship. Follow along at home.
She was built as the SS America for the United States Lines in 1940.
In 1941, the MARAD acquired her and sailed her for five years as the USS West Point.
Then the United States Lines picked her back up and used her old name until 1964 when…
The Chandris Grooup bought her and renamed the aging ship the SS Australis, and changed her to Greek registry.
Then Venture Cruises started up and for a year (1978) ran her as the SS America for the third time before…
Chandris required her and renamed her SS Italis…
Intercommerce bought her and called her the SS Noga to be converted to a floating prison ship in Lebanon before…
Silver Moon picked her up and referred to her as the Alferdoss in 1984…
Then finally the Chaophraya Transport Co acquired the fifty year old ship and caller her the SS America Star in 1994.
So if you were keeping track, that’s at least 9 different name changes including going back and forth to the SS America three times. Eh, it happens.
Well, after four decades of abuse and varying levels of maintenance from one cruise liner company to the next, the old SS America was, by the 1980s, basically derelict. In 1993 her last owner decided to tow her from Greece, where she had sat for decades to Thailand to be converted to a floating hotel at Phuket Beach. In the course of a 100-day tow by the Ukrainian tugboat Neftegaz-67, she broke her lines and ran aground off the west coast of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.
There she has stayed for the past 19 years, slowly being washed out to sea.
In another decade, all that will be left is the memory.
Specifications (as USS West Point) :
Displacement 26,455 t.(lt) 35,400 t.(fl)
Beam 93′ 3″
Draft 32′ 9″
Speed 24 kts.
Largest Boom Capacity 20 t.
Cargo Capacity 400 DWT
non-refrigerated 110,243 Cu ft
four single 5″/38 cal dual purpose gun mounts
four single 3″/50 cal dual purpose gun mounts
four twin 40mm AA gun mounts
eight .50 cal machine guns
(later augmented by as many as 10 20mm Oeirkilons)
NSFO 32,100 Bbls
Diesel 525 Bbls
two Newport News Shipbuilding turbines
six Babcock and Wilcox “A”-type boilers, 430psi 725°
double De Laval Main Reduction Gears
four turbo-drive 600Kw 100/240 D.C. Ship’s Service Generators
twin propellers, 34,000shp
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